WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration, saying the World Court has been used as a "political weapon" by Nicaragua, today ended the 39-year-old U.S. policy of automatic compliance with the U.N. organization's decisions.
"Our experience with compulsory jurisdiction has been deeply disappointing," said a State Department statement announcing President Reagan's decision.
The announcement accepting only limited jurisdiction, read to reporters by department spokesman Charles Redman, said Secretary of State George P. Shultz had sent to U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar a formal notice of termination of U.S. acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the 15-member International Court of Justice, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
U.S. acceptance, agreed to by President Harry S. Truman, was declared Aug. 26, 1946. Today's termination of that declaration will be effective in six months, the department said.
The department said that U.S. acceptance of the court's jurisdiction "remains strong" and that the action "does not signify any diminution of our traditional commitment to international law and to the International Court of Justice in performing its proper functions."
The statement said termination of acceptance of the court's compulsory jurisdiction is "fully compatible with the statute of the ICJ which leaves it to the discretion of each state to determine its relationship with the World Court."
The statement noted that the Administration announced Jan. 18 that it would not participate in proceedings brought by Nicaragua against the United States alleging that U.S. support for contra rebels seeking to topple the Marxist Sandinista government violates international law.
"The objectives of the ICJ to which we subscribe, the peaceful adjudication of international disputes, were being subverted by the effort of Nicaragua and its Cuban and Soviet sponsors to use the court as a political weapon," it said.
Few Have Complied
When Truman agreed to the jurisdiction in 1946, the United States expected other states to follow, the statement said, but less than one-third of the world's states have done so. Those include the Soviet Union and its allies and Nicaragua, it said.
But the United States maintained its policy, it said, "because we believed the respect owed to the court by other states and the court's own appreciation of the need to adhere scrupulously to its proper judicial role would prevent the court's process from being abused for political ends.
"Those assumptions have now been proved wrong," it said.
Despite the action, the statement said the United States "will continue to make use of the court to resolve disputes whenever appropriate and will encourage others to do likewise." To that end, Redman announced agreement with Italy to submit a trade dispute to the court.
Today's action will affect mostly political cases, but also commercial, legal or border disputes with countries that do not accept the court's jurisdiction as compulsory, said an official who insisted on anonymity.